Stretch marks are technically a form of scar tissue. They are exactly what they say they are - the result of the skin stretching too quickly. Read more...
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Can you briefly explain what stretch marks are and why/how they happen?
Stretch marks are technically a form of scar tissue. They are exactly what they say they are - the result of the skin stretching too quickly.
When the skin expands faster than it can keep up with, there is initially an inflammatory response followed by a healing phase. The initial stage of a stretch mark is noted to have redness and inflammation. After the skin begins to heal, these marks settle into lighter or hypopigmented linear scars.
While stretch marks are often discussed under the lens of pregnancy, it is not a pregnant-only condition. Can you explain how men and women (and non-pregnant women) can get stretch marks?
There are several common scenarios to see stretch marks develop.
Pregnancy is a time that stretch marks on on women’s minds however it is very common to see these develop under other scenarios.
Puberty can lead to a characteristic pattern of stretch marks in both boys and girls. There are often lower back stretch marks as a result of growth spurts in particular.
Exercising and gaining muscle mass at a rapid rate can often lead to stretch marks in those susceptible to them located over the biceps, deltoids, and thighs.
And, taking long-term steroids can thin the skin and trigger the development of stretch marks as well.
Where do stretch marks during puberty typically appear for boys?
I routinely see stretch marks in boys going through puberty. There are often lower back stretch marks as a result of growth spurts in particular. Exercising and gaining muscle mass at a rapid rate can often lead to stretch marks in those susceptible to them located over the biceps, deltoids, and thighs.
Are stretch marks seen in girls during puberty?
I see stretch marks in both boys and girls during puberty, however, the distribution of these stretch marks may vary. In boys, as mentioned earlier, I routinely find stretch marks along the lower back and flanks with increases in vertical height at a fast rate. For girls, I more often see stretch marks along the hips, medial thighs, and buttocks. I also see stretch marks along the shoulders and upper arms in both girls and boys.
Why do some boys get stretch marks while others don't? Does it have to do with how fast they grow? Is it genetic?
The question as to why some boys get these and not others are likely based on two factors: genetics and how quickly the skin expands. Some people are more prone to stretch marks compared to others due to potentially a variety of factors. Since the development of stretch marks is mediated by the speed of skin expansion as well as an inflammatory response to healing, there are a number of steps in which genetics can play a role.
How long does it take for stretch marks to fade?
Stretch marks often start off as reddish or inflamed. This inflammatory stage settles into hypopigmentation over the course of a few months. At this point, they tend to be somewhat lighter than the surrounding skin. Over time, the distinct contrast between the stretch mark and the surrounding skin can continue to fade and become less noticeable. This can occur over several years.
What is the best way to talk to children about their stretch marks?
Understanding that the sudden expansion of skin that lends to stretch marks developing can be frustrating but also exciting for boys as they recognize they are gaining height. Understanding that these stretch marks will fade substantially once growth is complete and stable for a window of time is often reassurance enough to get through this phase.
Keeping the skin well hydrated and moisturized during times when the skin is expanding will help your skin keep up with the stretch and hopefully reduce the chance of getting stretch marks in the first place. It is an opportunity to learn and understand more about the skin and how to care for it on a daily basis.
It's true that no single product can cure/prevent stretch marks, but can using certain products help lessen their appearance or even perhaps reduce your chance of getting them?
Most products that are used for stretch marks work by lessening the appearance of stretch marks. The tissue paper like wrinkling or crepey skin that overlies stretch marks makes them appear more pronounced. Many products work to hydrate the overlying skin to improve its turgor reducing their overall appearance. There are technically no products that can cure stretch marks simply because they are a form of scar tissue.
What are a few of your top recommendations for products to help with stretch marks?
Here are some products people use for stretch marks to improve their look:
This is a common go-to product given its affordability and ease of use. By keeping the skin well moisturized as it expands the hope is to reduce the inflammatory response to rapid stretching and hopefully reduce the scar tissue that follows. Probably best used before they develop. Once the stretch marks have already developed they are on their way to forming scar tissue.
This is a multiuse/multipurpose skin oil that applies easily and rubs in quickly. It can soothe the itching and skin sensitivities that occur when stretch marks are forming.
This product both moisturizes and feels like an added barrier on the skin. It makes the feel of clothes rubbing against the skin far less sensitive.
What are some more invasive ways you can get your stretch marks removed?
Radiofrequency skin tightening, micro-needling, laser resurfacing and/or surgical methods can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. However, each has variable results based on the type of stretch mark and treatment method.
Any other tips for dealing with stretch marks?
The tendency towards stretch marks is thought to be an inherited trait. The best option to help is to try to prevent the development of stretch marks. Keeping the skin well hydrated and moisturized during times when the skin is expanding will help your skin keep up with the stretch and hopefully reduce the chance of getting stretch marks in the first place.